Heathen was a particularly excellent thrash metal band from San Francisco in the 1980's and early 90's, known for their high level of musical skill. Much in the same manner as prime (circa Master of Puppets) Metallica, they combined aggressive, grinding riffs with fast guitar solos and precisely played harmonies. Heathen's lyrics, particularly on the second album, were skeptical and defiant, not particularly eloquent but still far better than most metal lyrics of their era.

The band's membership changed continually; the most permanent lineup was

  • Dave Godfrey - vocals
  • Doug Piercy - guitars 
  • Lee Altus - guitars
  • Mike Jastremski - bass
  • Darren Minter - drums

Piercy in particular was an excellent player - you'll still occasionally hear his style imitated to this day. They only recorded two albums, both of which are very out of print but have been recently reissued on CD by Century Media Records.


Breaking the Silence - 1987, Combat Records

  1. Death by Hanging
  2. Goblin's Blade
  3. Open the Grave
  4. Pray for Death
  5. Set Me Free
  6. Breaking the Silence
  7. World's End
  8. Save the Skull
  9. Heathen

Victims of Deception - 1991, Roadrunner Records

  1. Hypnotized
  2. Opiate of the Masses
  3. Heathen's song
  4. Kill the King (cover of the Rainbow song)
  5. Fear of the Unknown
  6. Prisoners of Fate
  7. Morbid Curiosity
  8. Guitarmony
  9. Mercy Is No Virtue
  10. Timeless Cell of Prophecy

Heathen originally described a person who lived on a heath, however the rise of christianity changed that. People who lived on heaths tended to be simple farmers and continued celebrating the harvest with bonfires and dances. There also tended to be more midwives in these areas, as doctors lived in cities and were not likely to be found in the country. Religious officials swept through the lands and took note of the continued practices of these Non-Christian customs. Attempting to spread their own beliefs they took the term heathen and made it their own, using it to describe a person who performed Non-Christian sanctified customs. Over the years the original definition was all but forgotten, and now heathen has become an everyday word for a person who does not act as a Christian or does not believe in Christianity.

Actually, that's not entirely correct. The meaning of heath, among other things, is basically a cow pasture, so yes, a heathen was someone who lived on a heath, i.e. a farmer. Although the religious usage of Heathen actually wasn't applied to people living in christendom; if they practiced non-christian practices, they were pagans or heretics, but by the late Dark Ages, early medieval age there really wasn't many pagans, heretics, heathens or otherwise within christendom itself. Instead, Heathen was applied to the Germanic people of the north.

Thus, early Saxons were Heathen, the Vikings and far flung Norse regions were heathen, but your average farmer who did a little dance to the Gods of fertility was not. The definition of Heathen, as stated above, a practicer of non-Christian, is a misconstructed term that we use today, not then. The orignal meaning of Heathenism was, more or less, of, or pertaining of, the old religion. The old religion referred to here was the Norse religion, what is today known as Asatru. The reason it was referred to as the old religion is after the collapse of Rome, the Germanic tribes spread throughout most of Europe and brought their religion with them. Thus, after having a mix of Norse Heathenism and Roman Catholicism, to becoming almost completely catholic, the "old" religion to many people would have been the Norse religion.

By the time of the crusades, Heathenism had been, more or less, eliminated. The Saxons had long been converted, as had what was left of the Vikings, and Scandinavia was crawling with missionaries. Hence, the word Heathen was more or less meaningless, and so its aim was modified. Instead of the Norse, the crusaders directed it against Islamic people, hence the phrase that is often used in movies and games: "Death to the Heathens!". As to when the word changed into the meaning we use it today is unknown, but it most likely occured during the Rennaisance period, although to this day, Asatruists refer to themselves as Heathens.

Hea"then fem. See Heath, and cf. Hoiden.]


An individual of the pagan or unbelieving nations, or those which worship idols and do not acknowledge the true God; a pagan; an idolater.


An irreligious person.

If it is no more than a moral discourse, he may preach it and they may hear it, and yet both continue unconverted heathens. V. Knox.

The heathen, as the term is used in the Scriptures, all people except the Jews; now used of all people except Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans.

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance. Ps. ii. 8.

Syn. -- Pagan; gentile. See Pagan.


© Webster 1913.

Hea"then (?), a.


Gentile; pagan; as, a heathen author.

"The heathen philosopher." "All in gold, like heathen gods."



Barbarous; unenlightened; heathenish.


Irreligious; scoffing.


© Webster 1913.

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